Course Guide (MA Art History, Curatorship and Renaissance Culture )

The MA in Art History, Curatorship and Renaissance Culture is offered by the Warburg Institute in collaboration with the National Gallery, London. The programme combines the study of artworks and their cultural contexts with high-level linguistic, archive and research skills for a new generation of academic art historians and museum curators. The art historical and scholarly traditions of the Warburg Institute are linked to the practical experience and skills of the National Gallery to provide an academic programme which will equip students either as academic art historians with serious insight into the behind the scenes working of a great museum or as curators with the research skills necessary for high-level museum work.

This twelve-month, full-time programme provides an introduction to:

Museum knowledge, which covers aspects of curatorship including the technical examination of paintings, connoisseurship, materials and conservation, attribution, provenance and issues relating to display.

Art history and Renaissance culture to increase students’ understanding of methods of analysing the subjects of works of art and their knowledge of Renaissance art works and the conditions in which they were commissioned, produced and enjoyed.

Current scholarship and professional practice in these areas as well as new and emerging areas of research and scholarship.

The programme is taught through classes and supervision by members of the academic staff of the Warburg Institute and by National Gallery curatorial and archival experts. The teaching staff of the Warburg Institute are leading academics in their field who have published widely and are involved with research related to the topics they teach.


Degree overview

The MA programme aims to:

Foster and develop student knowledge of and research into art, art history and curatorship.

Provide linguistic, archive and research skills to enable graduates of the programme to research, catalogue and curate works of art held in collections of national and international standing.

Build understanding of and ability to comment on primary source materials, both visual and textual.

Enable students to read academic papers and publications in European languages, and to undertake scholarly research at a high level and write up the results in an accurate and rigorous way.

Help students to acquire a familiarity with the principal sources of information in a variety of historical disciplines.



The course begins in early October with a Foundation Week, in which students will be introduced to the main topics and themes to be covered over the year.

The course is structured around five related activities:

Art history and Renaissance culture

Museum knowledge

Language, palaeographical and archive skills

A dissertation of 15,000 words

Participation in the broader intellectual activities of the Warburg Institute and National Gallery

All students take three core modules and two elective modules. In addition there is a regular series of classes throughout the three terms on Techniques of Scholarship, which include description of manuscripts, palaeography, printing in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries, editing a text, preparation of dissertations and photographic images. Students are also encouraged to attend the weekly research seminar and any of the other regular seminars held in either Institute that may be of interest to them. The third term and summer will be spent in researching and writing a dissertation, under the guidance of a supervisor from the academic staff of the Warburg Institute or a member of staff from the National Gallery.

Core modules include language and palaeography classes and are spread over two terms. Language training is provided at all levels from beginners to advanced. The optional subjects vary from year to year and students must select at least one in an art historical field. The following courses are those from which students may select in 2016-17. Note: The availability of optional modules will be dependent on student numbers.


Core modules

Image to Action | Dr Joanne Anderson

Curating at the National Gallery | Curatorial, conservation and scientific staff of the National Gallery, including Dr Susan Foister, Dr Caroline Campbell, Dr Susanna Avery-Quash, Mr Larry Keith and Ms Rachel Billings

Language, Palaeographical and Archive Skills | Various tutors for language/palaeography, Dr Claudia Wedepohl (The Warburg Institute) and Mr Alan Crookham (National Gallery) for archive skills


Optional modules (two to be chosen)

Imagination, Fantasy and Delusion: Renaissance Philosophy and the Challenges of Representation │ Dr Guido Giglioni

Italian Mural Painting and the Making of Visual Cultures, 1400-1500 │ Dr Joanne Anderson

Renaissance Material Culture │Dr Rembrandt Duits

Sin and Sanctity in the Reformation │ Professor Alastair Hamilton

History of the Book | Dr Raphaële Mouren

Maps and Mapping | Dr Alessandro Scafi



Teaching, learning and assessment

The usual format for classes is a weekly seminar. All students are required to submit three essays of 4,000 words, one at the beginning of the second term and the remaining two at the beginning of the third term. The National Gallery module is assessed by a 4000-word catalogue entry on a painting in the collection. A dissertation of 15,000 words, on a topic agreed by the student and supervisor, has to be submitted by 30 September. The course is examined on these five pieces of written work and examinations in language, palaeographical and archive skills modules. Students are allocated a course tutor but are encouraged to discuss their work with other members of the staff at the Warburg Institute and the National Gallery. Because of the small numbers involved (places are limited to 12 per year), students have unusually frequent contact, formal and informal, with their teachers.


Course summary

Degree structure

Three compulsory core modules and two additional modules chosen from a range of options, plus a dissertation of 15,000 words.

Mode of study

12 months full-time

Fees 2017–18 (please see website for up-to-date fees)

Home and EU Students: £7,230 | Overseas students: £15,555


Entry requirements

The normal minimum entry requirement is an upper second-class honours degree from a British university, or an equivalent qualification from a foreign institution, in any discipline in the humanities which is related to the course. In addition to a good knowledge of Art History, especially related to the Renaissance, a reading knowledge of one and preferably two European modern languages, apart from English, is required. All students whose first language is not English must provide recent evidence that their written and spoken English is adequate for postgraduate study. Applications should be submitted by 31 July 2017.

Why choose this degree?

The Warburg Institute is the premier institute in the world for the study of cultural history and the role of images in culture. It is cross-disciplinary and global. It is concerned with the histories of art and science, and their relationship with superstition, magic, and popular beliefs. Its researches are historical, philological and anthropological. It is dedicated to the study of the survival and transmission of cultural forms – whether in literature, art, music or science – across borders and from the earliest times to the present. The Warburg Institute is based at the School of Advanced Study, University of London and houses a world-famous library, archive and photographic collection.

The National Gallery houses the UK’s national collection of over 2,300 Western European paintings from the 13th to the 19th centuries. Its collection contains famous works, such as The Wilton Diptych, Leonardo’s Madonna of the Rocks, van Eyck’s Arnolfini Portrait, Velázquez’s Rokeby Venus and Turner’s Fighting Temeraire. The gallery’s aim is to care for the collection, to enhance and to study it, while encouraging access to the pictures for the education and enjoyment of the widest possible public now and in the future.

In taking this MA with the Warburg Institute and the National Gallery, students will have unrivalled access to the best resources and expertise for academic study in London. Alongside our official programme we organise visits and training sessions at neighbouring institutions, such as the British Museum, Government Art Collection, Welcome Trust and British Library, and further afield the V&A, Dulwich Picture Gallery, the National Portrait Gallery and the Courtauld Gallery. Students have the opportunity to speak with artists, curators and academics, many of whom are Warburg alumni to enrich their learning experience and develop research projects.

In addition to the MA programme, there is a varied and exciting range of public lectures, conferences, events and talks available to students at the Warburg Institute and National Gallery. They have the opportunity to consult and exchange ideas with the community of academic art historians who use the Warburg Institute as their base and provide access to networks which will support them in their future profession. See the website for more details on our annual programme:


Learn more

For details of entry requirements, tuition fees, funding opportunities, English language requirements, disability support, accommodation and how to apply, please consult the School graduate study webpages. Detailed course descriptions and information about assessment are available on the Institute’s graduate study webpages.


School graduate study webpages:


Institute graduate study webpages:


Please note the information in this guide is correct as at July 2016, but the School of Advanced Study, University of London reserves the right to alter or withdraw courses and amend other details without prior notice as required.

two to be chosen from :

The art of wall painting in Italian churches, palaces and streets reached new heights across the fifteenth century. From the single-point perspective of Masaccio's Trinity (c.1425) in Florence and the astrological scheme in the Palazzo Schifanoia in Ferrara (1466-74) to the grand typological scheme of the Sistine Chapel (c.1490), the monumental proportions and architectural character of this art lent presence and authority to religious and political ideologies. It equally gave expression to ideas of learning, culture and pleasure. To step inside their constructed and performing worlds was an embodied experience that played upon all the senses, creating connections with other objects present, such as glass, altarpieces, metalwork, furniture or tapestries.

This course focuses on sacred and profane wall paintings in central and northern Italy, exploring their role in the making of visual cultures. It begins with materials and modes of production, utilising artistic treatises, contracts and visual sources to enhance knowledge of theory and practice. This lays the foundations for case-study seminars dedicated to meaning in context: from sacred to domestic, interior to exterior, urban to rural. Students will explore the significance of works created for key sites and patrons, including those adapted according to shifts in taste or regime. With an eye on displacement or destruction, the latter weeks will focus on ideas about permanence, originality and function of murals during the Renaissance but also in modern times with the museum- like environment (e.g. Padua, Arezzo) and the real museum (e.g. Castelfiorentino). Visits to London sites (National Gallery, Eton College Chapel) will help contextualise the connection between objects and belief, the life spans of artworks and display strategies.


This course is intended as an introduction to some of the main issues which came to the fore at the time of the Reformation in Protestant and Catholic Europe. The survey will range from the Middle Ages to the early seventeenth century, and the emphasis will be on the standard teaching on sin and salvation before the advent of Protestantism, humanist ideals of human perfection, Protestant views of the justified sinner, heretical adaptations of such views in Southern Europe, and the Catholic reaction.


During the Renaissance, the notion of imagination was at the centre of numerous debates involving such different fields as art and medicine, philosophy and rhetoric, demonology and divination. The aim of the course is to identify and discuss the most relevant connections between these fields. Renaissance imagination spanned the whole spectrum of cognitive functions and dysfunctions, from the illusions of the senses to the abstractions of the intellect, from the process of artistic creation to the representative failures of melancholic disorders.


The aim of this course is to offer a perspective on Renaissance art that is at once much wider and much more focussed than most traditional accounts. Much wider in the sense that it covers a broader range of artefacts - from lead pilgrim's badges to pieces of goldsmith's work and from wax ex votos to gold-brocaded fabrics. And much more focussed because it discusses works of art as material objects with an economic and social value, dealing not with the intricacies of individual styles but with the social and economic mechanisms that caused styles to differentiate, not with the details of specific commissions but with the larger trends in the production and consumption of art within different social classes. Using a series of case studies and documents such as inventories, accounts and anecdotes recorded by chroniclers and travellers, the course will offer an insight into how art functioned within the material world of the Renaissance and among a variety of patrons, including not just the usual male oligarchs of art-historical convention, but also poor people, artisans themselves, and women.


The aim of the course is to provide an understanding of the history of the printed book from its invention to c. 1600, with special focus on the learned book, the material aspects of its construction, and the cultural and intellectual context of this history, particularly the relationship between all the actors in the field: authors, editors, publishers, printers, proof-readers, etc.